A North County man accused of fraud can’t get a fair trial due to pretrial publicity, according to a defense attorney who wants his client’s trial moved to another county.
But venues are only typically changed in high-profile murder cases, according to the District Attorney’s Office, which argued that the fraud case actually has had little publicity.
Rodney Virgil Jarmin, 75, and Tammy Marian Jordan, 54, have both been charged with seven felony counts of selling securities by means of false statements or omissions. As attorneys were selecting a jury for their trial in May, a deal was struck allowing the defendants to plead no contest to the charges as misdemeanors.
However, the district attorney’s office successfully sought to have that plea withdrawn, saying the judge should not have reduced charges to misdemeanors before pleas were entered.
Both defendants have pleaded not guilty.
On July 30, Jarmin’s attorney, Robert Sanger, filed a motion for a change of venue, saying his client could not get a fair and impartial trial. Citing four Tribune articles about the plea and KSBY coverage, Sanger wrote that potential jurors would associate Jarmin with other defendants in local fraud cases, including Al Moriarty, Kelly Gearhart and Candy Wells, who were all sentenced to prison.
“Unlike in those cases, there is not evidence here that Mr. Jarmin embezzled the funds at issue,” Sanger wrote. “Nevertheless, the press coverage of this case has cast him in a similar light.”
As a result of the coverage, Sanger contends, the small community responded with hostility, which included angry letters written to the court and The Tribune’s letters to the editor.
In California, very few cases are moved outside of their county due to pretrial publicity. The last case moved outside San Luis Obispo County was the Rex Krebs double murder death penalty trial in 2001.
In its opposition motion, filed Friday, the District Attorney’s Office argued that the defense failed to prove several required factors for a change of venue. One of those factors pertains to the nature and gravity of the offense.
The Jarmin case, dealing with securities fraud violations, “while certainly serious and greatly affecting many victims . . . is nowhere near the magnitude in nature or gravity of the types of cases – murder cases – for which change of venue is typically considered,” wrote deputy district attorney Steve von Dohlen.
There has been little media coverage of the case, von Dohlen wrote, and it has been factual. Meanwhile, most community animosity toward the defendants has been expressed by the alleged victims, he wrote.
Sanger also filed a motion to have the District Attorney’s Office recuse itself from the case, saying the prosecution improperly attempted to influence the judge in his consideration to set aside the plea. But in a response motion, the state attorney general’s office argued that the claims of misconduct are unfounded.
The case returns to court Friday for a motions hearing.